2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Photo Credit : Copyright Dianna Snape

Project Overview

The two owners of Mister Close met in high school in the 1980s, and formed a strong friendship that has lasted several decades. When deciding to go into business together, the drew inspiration from those years, naming the cafe after their favourite Geography teacher from year 8. Sporting a striking black moustache and dark rimmed glasses, Mister Close was loved by many of his students. Mister Close inspired his students to better things, a good analogy for the location of the cafe that bears his name.

Project Commissioner

Mister Close

Project Creator

Byron George for Rusell & George


Byron George - Director / Designer
Rebecca Ransley

Project Brief

Situated behind a Starbucks adjacent to an asian food court, Mister close is the first stage of the retail upgrade to Midtown arcade and connects the newly renovated office tower foyer with the retail mall off Swanston Street. 

Mister Close, the favourite Geography teacher inspired all elements of the fitout. The library has been replaced by the dining room, and the cloister, by the kitchen. The most striking element in the cafe is the folded timber ceiling baffles, hinging accordian like and folding down to conceal the kitchen canopy. This references two things, Mister Close’s love of the accordian, and the cloister where he frequently liked to teach. It also gives Mister Close a presence on the visually noisy Swanston Street. 

Project Innovation / Need

Most of the furniture was designed specifically for this fitout, and was a study in Geometry. Circles and triangles abound, and are joined in incongruous ways. Small circular tables and stools look like they will topple over, while larger tables and benches appear sturdy and robust from one angle, but impossibly thin from another. The whole thing is designed to make people think and engage with the space, in the safety of a protected environment, a little like school really.

Design Challenge

The main design challenge in this project was putting a food business with it's associated services, into a tenancy that was not designed for it. Getting exhaust services from a commercial kitchen and a workable grease interceptor into the job, and connecting with the existing building services and structure (while complying with health regulations etc) was a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle in the dark.


There were three main sustainability objectives in this project:
-all timber substrates had to be E0 - low formaldehyde.
-Ply furniture panels were designed to come from a single sheet of plywood, minimising waste
-all veneers were from locally sourced plantations - Victorian Ash was selected as it's the most prolific plantation hardwood available in Victoria (minimising transport energy that would have been used if exotic species were selected).
-Lighting is low energy wherever possible - LED, fluoro and metal halide all used in various locations. LED strips were incorporated into kitchen joinery so there was a light source where it was needed (minimising energy use). This also had the added advantage of resolving the situation where soft mood lighting is required in the dining areas, while direct lighting is required on surfaces in the kitchen. Metal halide was chosen for front display areas for maximum punch.

This award recognises building interiors, with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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